On May 24, Facebook Inc. rolled out a political advertising policy to regulate how advertisements containing political content appeared on the platform in an effort to prevent foreign agents from interfering with future United States elections. But the new policy has upended the promotional strategies of major news organizations and average Facebook users who run their own nonpolitical pages on the platform by blocking them from posting content related to politics.
For example, on May 21, CBS News decided to put money behind a story explaining who would succeed President Donald Trump. After the sponsored post went online, Facebook said it determined the ad had political content, required a financial disclosure label and took it down. According to a new database Facebook launched to showcase the political advertisements running across its platform, 21 different advertisements from CBS News for the same story were removed, despite the mix of featured images and teaser post text.
CBS News isn’t alone. In recent weeks, Business Insider and Vox Media have both seen their promoted post advertisements halted for not including a financial disclosure. Vox attempted to promote an audio clip from its daily news podcast “Today, Explained” that discussed a Supreme Court decision. For Business Insider, the stories being promoted ranged from one highlighting what the average U.S. household paid in federal income taxes to a profile on the Admiral Kuznetsov, a Russian aircraft carrier.
David Chavern, chief executive of the News Media Alliance, which represents 2,000 news organizations across the country, has written two letters on behalf of the News Media Alliance, one to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on May 18 and another to members of Congress on Monday, demanding changes to how news organizations are classified.
“If you produce journalism or opinion, and you pay to uplift it in the news feed, they treat that as political advocacy,” Chavern said in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s really dangerous to take anything that an actual established news organization does, be it journalism or opinion, and call it a political ad.”
In a letter to Congress dated June 4, Chavern demanded lawmakers host a series of hearings that will cover the advertising and promotion issues posed to news organizations whose posts are being labeled as a political advertisements.